Long ago there lived a knight of ancient Spanish lineage in a village of the province of la Mancha. He did not live in comfortable circumstances. He had stew at midday, fried bread in the evenings, lentils on Fridays and at the weekend perhaps a pigeon or a little chicken as a treat. He spent three quarters of his income on such food. The rest of his money went on clothes befitting his rank and status. Every year he had a new cloth doublet, velvet breeches and slippers, as well as a beret and a wide cloak of the finest cloth, which he threw around his shoulders in the manner of the "Grand-Seigneur". His household consisted of a young girl - his niece - an elderly housekeeper who kept his house in some sort of order, and a lad who fed the old nag and the hunting dog and who wielded the axe in house and yard. The lord of this manor had been seen fifty years come and go; but he was strong and of tough constitution, tall, lean-bodied and thin-faced. He was an early riser and a lover of hunting. - The reader must know that this gentleman spent most of his days and nights in his chamber among large piles of books and yellowed tomes reading stories of knight errantry and tales of heroes and adventures. He read these strange works with such tenacity and absorption that he often forgot not just food, drink and sleep, but also neglected his small estate and had to sell a good field or meadow to be able to purchase still more books. The greatest misfortune was that he believed every word of those sagas and legends. His mind was so full of battles, tournaments, of lances and swords, of enchantments and love-songs, of challenges, death, wounds, giants, dragons and other such that he lost his wits and became as mad as a March hare. In his confusion he determined to become a knight errant in order to serve the world and to earn fame and honour for himself. He revelled in the thought of seeking adventure, performing heroic deeds, exposing himself to dangers and enduring hardships the like of which had never been heard before, and he did not hesitate to put his lunatic plans into practice.